Joe Bryson stood in the dark for an hour this summer, waiting to catch the last bus from the Lagoon amusement park in Farmington to his home in Layton.
He said his job at the park had ended in time to catch an earlier bus at 11 p.m., but there were too many bikes on board, and the driver said there was no room for Bryson to get on with his own two-wheeled ride.
So he waited.
Likewise, University of Utah student Nikki Christensen said she, too, has been forced to wait when there is no room for her bike on a Utah Transit Authority bus. Josh Merrell, a 16-year-old from Bountiful, said he will just leave his bike locked to a rack when the bus is crowded with bike riders.
All three said they find the issue frustrating and a potential roadblock to riding the bus.
"The bus can fit dozens of people on it, but it can only fit two bikes on it," Merrell said. "If you've got a bus driver who's cooperating, well, you can fit three, sometimes four, but that's kind of rare, too. You don't usually find a bus driver who wants a bike in the bus."
Under UTA policy, only two bikes are allowed at one time in the racks mounted on the front of its 300 or so regular buses. Drivers do have discretion to allow additional bikes on board, but whether they do depends on how much room is available and whether the operator deems the situation safe, according to UTA spokeswoman Carrie Bohnsack-Ware.
The agency has 48 larger express buses that fit four bikes at one time. Its 150 paratransit buses do not accommodate cyclists.
Christensen said she would like to see the agency do more to accommodate its riders. She said she has been to cities where four or more bikes can be placed in racks inside the bus.
"We have such a spread-out transit system anyway," Christensen said. "To get anywhere off the transit grid, if you're paying a fare, you need to have a guaranteed spot for your bike."
Earlier this year, Christensen formed a coalition at the U. to encourage more transit ridership and find solutions to common issues with riding the bus or train. She said she sold her car and now relies solely on her feet, bike and transit to get around.
Bohnsack-Ware said UTA did try in the past to install bike racks with three slots, not two, but the system blocked light from the buses' headlights and the racks were deemed unsafe according to state requirements, she said. With the recent bus redesign in Salt Lake County, she said most riders will not have to wait longer than 15 to 30 minutes to catch a bus.
Other transit agencies across the nation also allow only two bikes on a bus and have limits on the number of cyclists allowed on subway, commuter rail or light-rail trains. UTA's TRAX system has room for two riders at each end of each train.
From her agency's perspective, Bohnsack-Ware said it doesn't happen often that someone is stranded, and bike riders are encouraged to keep using the bus.
"We try to work with bike riders as much as we can, but we also have to balance out the safety of other passengers," she said.A complete listing of rules about bikes on UTA transit systems can be found at www.rideuta.com. Click on the heading that says "Riding UTA," and then open the link that says "How to Ride UTA."
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